04/23/2013 06:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Northwestern: Normal and Smart

By Nicholas Jacobson

2013-04-23-Screenshot20130423at3.53.46PM.pngI grew up two blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For me, the Met represents the mixture of sports and fine art, or even the beauty of brutality and culture. Throughout middle school, my friends and I gathered in the Met's backyard to play a fun, yet competitive game of tackle football once or twice a week. The grass was green on "Met Field" when we first started playing in September. A couple of months into the Fall, the beautiful oasis became a vast wasteland of dust. Whenever I went on a class field trip to the Met, my mind struggled between admiring pieces of art and the upcoming afternoon of tossing the football around.

I don't see a disconnect between valuing Matisse's "Crockery on a Table" and, say, Drew Brees' passes. I don't think I would be alone in appreciating a good quarterback and a piece of art as per a comment of my tour guide on my first trip to Northwestern. He described Northwesterners as "the smartest normal kids in the country." That comment secured my feeling that Wildcat Nation is the ideal place for me. Versatility is my norm, from playing guitar to football to combing New York City in search of the perfect burger. The tour guide's remark perfectly describes the kind of peers and classmates with whom I want to share my college experience. In my view, normal and intelligent kids are not just high-achievers who are masters at balancing work and fun. These kids also possess versatility, and Met football is a microcosm of that balance.

I am also drawn to the flexibility of the quarter system at Northwestern. Taking four classes per quarter and twelve per year will allow me to take many classes outside of my major. My guide talked about his class on the history of hip-hop, which explored the politics of rap. I want to take a class like that, maybe a class about the progression of Greek architecture, or perhaps one on the psychology of bullying. I want to stretch myself and my academic interests throughout college. The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences offers an innovative and well-rounded liberal arts education, but I also want to take advantage of the prestigious Kellogg Certificate Program later in my college experience.

Specifically, I am largely interested in economics. When touring Northwestern, I quickly moved over to the tour-guide who mentioned he was an economics major. I requested that he talk about the economics major for a little during the tour, and he really talked about it for more than just "a little." He raved about the outstanding quality of professors, mentioning a professor named Joseph Ferrie in particular. I looked up Dr. Ferrie and learned that he taught the history of economics. I read one of his papers that examined the increased mortality rates in Chicago entitled "Death and the City: Chicago's Mortality Transition." The research paper examined the issue from an economic perspective, while analyzing the effect of the role of government. This particular research is the exact kind of academic work I am looking forward to. My innate abilities lie in math while my interests lie in history; Ferrie's economic analysis combines both.

I have already begun to integrate mathematical and historical analyses in my studies. Last year, I wrote a term paper for history about the introduction of Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball and the effect it had on professional sports, as well as society. Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, wanted to integrate the professional baseball by finding a spectacular black athlete to prove that blacks could perform at, or even above, the level that whites performed at. Rickey wanted to sign the best possible player, but knew that the recent history had not been kind to African Americans in the United States. It was a necessity for the chosen player to be composed in order to deflect racial slurs and criticism from white fans and players. As Rickey explained it, he must have the emotional stability to "armor [himself] against the daggers of prejudice." Branch Rickey used statistics to determine the best player, but also referenced history to choose a player with poise. The choice of Jackie Robinson to lead the integration movement in baseball perfectly illustrates the type of research I want to continue to do at Northwestern.

While living in Chicago last summer and interning at the Chicago Recording Company, I visited the campus numerous times and fell in love with the ivy-covered buildings, the beauty of the lake, and even the vibe I got from standing in the cafeteria. I cannot envision myself going to school anywhere else. However, beauty alone is but a small factor in my decision to apply early to Northwestern.

I have looked at all aspects of Wildcat life. I have studied the list of clubs and know that I will not have difficulty in finding clubs to join. In fact, the challenge will be choosing from the rich options, such as the Happiness Club and Mee-Ow Comedy Troupe. Then, there are the traditions, which also reflect the fun loving nature of the school. I yearn for the chance to paint my entire body purple and jingle my keys during kick off in preparation for the Wildcats whooping Iowa at Ryan Field. I want to study hard for finals and then go outside and scream as loud as I can, just because I can. I want to be a part of the Northwestern ritual of painting the rock and guarding it furiously despite the fact that it is ten degrees and snowing. I crave the opportunity to dance until my legs fall off to raise money for charity.

I validated my initial sense of the University when I visited the school and stayed overnight in the fall when classes were in session. From the moment I stepped out from the cab onto Sheridan Road, I knew my decision had been finalized. The school spirit was tangible as students were walking around in purple with "Wildcats" written on their clothes. Between watching hands turn into Wildcat claws during the game against Michigan, talking to economics majors about the economics department, eating at Lisa's, or just hanging out in the dorms and ordering from Buffalo Wild Wings, I knew that Northwestern had "Nick Jacobson" written all over it. Northwestern has something I call the "intangible factor"; I felt in my gut that this place was for me. I have not visited another school in any part of the country where kids have expressed the same enthusiasm for their school. At Northwestern, I got the feeling that everyone just wants to be there and loves it. It's not that they even want to be there. They would do anything to be there. For me, Northwestern will combine fun and learning, as Met football once did in my life. I know I will benefit from everything the school has to offer and thrive in the academic and social environment of the school. I can say with conviction that Northwestern is the place for me -- a place where I am well suited to spend the next four years of my life.

Nicholas Jacobson is a Freshman at Northwestern University and a 2012 graduate of The Dalton School.